Following a fatal tanker crash on U.S. 15 earlier this month, the state transportation department has promised a guardrail between the highway and a residential neighborhood where the crash happened.
But residents whose houses are near the U.S. 15 corridor pushed on Wednesday for more action and physical barriers.
A tanker traveling north on U.S. 15 through Frederick overturned north of Rosemont Avenue, hit a tree, and exploded on March 4, killing the driver. One home on Apple Avenue, which runs parallel to the highway, was destroyed. Other homes on the street were also damaged.
The only thing that separates the highway from the residential road is a thin strip of vegetation with shrubs and trees.
The lack of barriers was the main concern people had for Andrew Radcliffe, a district engineer for the Maryland Department of Transportation, during a forum Wednesday about the crash.
Radcliffe was joined by Frederick County Fire Chief Tom Coe; Christopher Ralston, the program manager for the Maryland Department of the Environment’s oil control program; and Frederick Police Department Lt. Kevin Meyer to answer questions from Frederick County residents about the crash and emergency response.
Each panelist explained their roles in the incident and what comes next.
Radcliffe was quick to mention that a guardrail stretching from the U.S. 15 bridge over Rosemont and along the ramp will be installed on Sunday as a temporary protection measure for the residents of Apple Avenue.
It will remain there at least until the U.S. 15 expansion project begins in 2026, when MDOT will be adding one lane in each direction to U.S. 15 where the median currently is, and adding noise barriers for the neighborhoods that are right next to the highway.
However, during the audience question-and-answer part of the forum, people pressed for answers on why a noise barrier can’t be put up sooner, both for safety and simple quality of life for residents.
One man invited county and city government official to join him in his backyard on Wyngate Drive, which runs along U.S. 15 farther south near South Jefferson Street, to hear just how loud the highway already is. There isn’t a noise barrier there, he said.
“I cut my grass with a gas lawnmower and I can't hear over the traffic. So please come over. Hear for yourself,” he said.
Leigh Brownell-Currens questioned MDOT's logic of first expanding U.S. 15 and then adding a noise barrier. She lives on Wilson Place, a few blocks away from U.S. 15, and she was struck by how other neighborhoods that border the highway have had noise barriers since before she moved there in the 1970s.
“The priorities of building the middle strip, before putting in sound barriers, to me seems a little bit like putting the cart in front of the horse,” she said. “These two communities on either side of [U.S.15] have had to endure safety concerns and noise pollution for years.”
Radcliffe ensured that one part of the project wouldn't be built before the other.
"The noise mitigation would be part of the widening project. So they're one and the same, linked together," he said.
Community members and those who drive on the highway expressed at the forum how unsafe they think U.S. 15 is in general. Cars fly at 75 miles per hour when the speed limit is 55, many said.
Others shared how they were nearly run off the road because another driver didn’t yield.
“There are so many people speeding on that road,” Lee Place resident Kelly Smart said. “It is incredible. It's scary. I know a lot of people that will avoid 15 completely because of the traffic and then the speeding.”
Middletown resident Bob Smart said he believed the problems of U.S. 15 come from the fact that it no longer serves the purpose it was initially built for. He recommended to state transportation officials that they build an eastern bypass rather than expand the lanes.
“Over the 70 years Frederick has grown, it is no longer a through road that takes traffic out of the build-up area. It is more realistically an urban suburban collector road,” he said.
Kelly Sanders, a resident of Lee Place, asked for state transportation officials to at least put up speed cameras to have people drive slower on U.S. 15. Radcliffe responded by saying that the department is only allowed to put speed cameras in work zones.
Sonny Smoyer, a resident of Biggs Avenue for more than 40 years, said this was the closest the community has ever gotten to getting a noise barrier between his street and the highway. But he lamented that it took a tragic crash and loss of life to get closer.
“Don't give us the bare minimum.” he said. “Go above and beyond what we deserve.”
In an interview after the meeting, he summarized his feelings on the barrier finally being built: “Actions speak louder than words.”
The Frederick Sanner on Facebook posted that the State Highway Administration are going to install guardrails on that portion of 15N this Sunday.
moratorium on building in Frederick County
That would eliminate or reduce many of our problems trwz. [thumbup][thumbup]
And create or exacerbate others.
Lots of traffic on 15 thru lucketts Va. all coming from MD. Not from within. Stopping building in frederick county would have little impact on 15 in their area
About as realistic as expecting the sun to rise in the West.
Meanwhile, the deficient low bridge signage still exist northbound 75 to Monrovia. Sigh…….
Did you notify the State Highway Authority? I doubt they read the FNP comments.
-- Guardrails, even high + high strength ones, are not terribly expensive.
-- Please do have sympathy for those living along this road, and along rivers & other flood plain areas, downwind from industrial operations, or dust-creating agricultural areas, etc. People buy/rent what they can afford and based on school districts, commute time to their jobs, etc. Not everyone can afford to buy the ideal home in the ideal setting. Be thankful, and humble, if you have the resources to do that.
--US 15 wasn't planned. It evolved. It was a deer path, and then an Indian path, and then a horse trail, and then a one-lane road, etc. Just like most roads. Housing came later. So now we have to evolve a bit more, with guard rails, maybe sound walls, realignment of on/off ramps, etc. And, yes, it is a legitimate public expense, just like the road in front of our homes, and FAA expenses related to the airplanes flying above us, etc.
Hope everyone has a blessed day.
There was a woman who lived in that area at least 15-20 years ago - she wrote letters and attended meetings pleading for a sound wall to be built for both noise mitigation and safety. Her pleas were ignored. And here we are...
Ok, but sound wall and guard rails would not have prevented this. And no one hit anyone’s home.
I’m sure the family whose house burned down will be happy to hear that.
Are you aware how their house ignited? The family is.
The truck never crossed the road.
A sound barrier would have gone a long way to mitigate a fire, and if they’re likely the tree wouldn’t have been hit head on either.
They were there…not they’re.
Greg, you do realize the fire was from petro flowing?
I live on right on the other side of the highway, so yes I know and I watched as it played out. The family still lost their house even if it wasn’t a direct hit. Your point makes zero sense.
The fire happened because of intense heat from the gas fire. The heat could be felt on Biggs ave. A soundwall would have helped at least potentially deflect the truck from an indirect hit.
Plumb...the crash was the guy hititng a tree....which the wall would have deflected the whole rig vs having it stop instantly upon smacking a tree (tree being on other side of wall or not there at all) and you would most likely have seen the rig scrape the wall instead of crack open the fuel tank. Fuel would have been blocked from flowing freely onto the lawns as well. Sound wall is around 15' high....so even if it did crack open, the heat would be deflected lower where the wall is to not radiate to the home and would not have flowed out into the street and lawns either. Double benefit from a wall....there are no trees out in front of it and it stops sound....and triple benefit that it stops vehicles from careening into people's homes and onto their land. I've seen more than a few tanker accidents in my days and the ones who involved guard rails and walls didn't burst. The ones who rolled or hit an object hard straight on....not ending well.
Have no sympathy for these people. They bought these houses, which have been under the same circumstances for decades.
Your statement reminds me of a scene in the movie "Airplane". Two people are discussing the plane's possibly-doomed situation. Point-Counterpoint. The man looks straight at the TV audience with zero empathy and says, "They bought their tickets. Let 'em crash."
Oh may the sympathy you show toward others be the example for the consideration you deserve. Amen.
Is that a Thought or a Prayer?
Someone suggested eastern bypass around Frederick. This has been discussed for decades and any plan would take decades and mega millions to buy property and construction, not to mention legal battles. Frederick City has been working on its mini beltway for decades, but all that did was encourage annexation and more development surrounding City.
Fray - Exactly!!
Does anyone know what caused this man (RIP) to crash the tanker?
Probably cut-off by someone in a rush to no were.
The design of 15 is so remarkably awful, I don’t know that a little fix here or there will make much difference.
I mean, who puts an exit/entrance ramp right next to a high school parking lot entrance? (TJ)
Who builds these impossibly short on-ramps? Who builds a highway literally in the back yards of occupied homes?
The design of roads and highways in and around Frederick has horrified me for four decades. Each “upgrade” only seems to make it worse.
I believe existing Rt 15 thru Frederick was built in the 50’s. Thomas Johnson was built in 1966. In retrospect, Rt 15 upgrades through the City and County was considered a great improvement at the time it was constructed. As always, infrastructure never keeps up with population growth or developments and improvements to roads rarely do, unless there is a safety related disaster involving deaths.
The at-grade intersections further north are fun too.
Everyone is wanting sound barriers. They're not cheap and tax dollars will be paying for them. I know this sounds crazy, but here is an idea. DON'T BUY NEXT TO A HIGHWAY! You buy next to a highway and then complain about the sound and expect the tax dollars of other's to solve your problem. People must own the decisions they make.
Maybe some of these people bought decades ago when the noise was tolerable.
Lived here all my life and the noise has never been tolerable - I had HS friends that lived around there, and it was bad in 70's. I honestly don't know how anyone could live in Holly Hills with the noise from I-70 droning all day! My wife and I looked at buying out there years ago and once I stepped outside the car, I said no way!
Maybe they bought thinking it was a first home. Or an interim home for another reason. We have the best neighbors, great location, but people only have to hear “Amber Meadows” to be shocked we’re here 40+ years. Asking “why” is not as rude as reacting as if our reason isn’t good enough. Oh Really. Where have *you* lived.
People fail to think about the future. I'm sure it was more tolerable decades ago, but that is something people have to think about. What's here today might not be here tomorrow. Do I want to buy a home here?
It might be cheaper and easier for us to just buy out those homeowners on Apple Ave, tear up the street and plant trees.
That's true! Hahahaha!
"Radcliffe ensured that one part of the project wouldn't be built before the other."
Why can't a sound barrier go up now?
I've thought a sound barrier on 15 would be proper long ago on both sides. That or buy them all up and expand and then put the barrier in and improve the exits and entries on all of them. That needs to happen sooner, not later.
Sound barrier, yes. Eminent domain is threatening. For what you’d get…relocate…where
While we're at it...sound barriers along I-70 through Middletown Valley would be very nice... [cool]
I doubt that will ever happen, but the db level of the traffic noise is high. Even on summer nights when the insects are really loud, the traffic noise is at about the same level -- and we're a couple miles line-of-sight from the highway.
Then people in buckeystown need a barrier too. Along with people everywhere.
The whole nation will look like the ending scene of the movie Brazil. https://i.stack.imgur.com/cgxVY.jpg
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it clean. No vulgar, racist, sexist or sexually-oriented language.
Engage ideas. This forum is for the exchange of ideas, not personal attacks or ad hominem criticisms.
TURN OFF CAPS LOCK.
Be civil. Don't threaten. Don't lie. Don't bait. Don't degrade others.
No trolling. Stay on topic.
No spamming. This is not the place to sell miracle cures.
No deceptive names. Apparently misleading usernames are not allowed.
Say it once. No repetitive posts, please.
Help us. Use the 'Report' link for abusive posts.